Fig & Rosemary Rye Soda Bread


Preparation info

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By Lorraine Pascale

Published 2017

  • About

I am slightly obsessed by soda bread. I like the flavour a lot, but what I really love is its versatility – you can change the ingredients to give it a completely new character. I am using some rye flour here, which is an unusual addition to soda bread. It produces a slightly more dense loaf and the flavour pairs so well with the rosemary, honey and figs. Oats or a dusting of flour can top off this loaf, but brushing it with honey gives it a sticky sweet crust.


  • 340 ml buttermilk or 340 ml whole milk and juice of ½ lemon
  • 425 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 75 g wholemeal rye flour
  • 1 heaped tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped (leaves of 3 sprigs)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 60 g dried figs, finely chopped
  • 40 ml extra-virgin olive oil or melted butter
  • 1 tbsp honey, plus extra to glaze


If you’re making your own buttermilk, put the milk and lemon juice in a jug and allow it to sit for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan 180°C/400°F/gas 6) and place a baking sheet in the oven. Put the plain and rye flours into a large bowl with the rosemary, salt, bicarbonate of soda and figs, and mix together with a wooden spoon. Make a well in the centre and add the olive oil or butter, honey and buttermilk, and then mix this together to form a soft dough.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and sprinkle some flour over it. Then get your hands into the bowl and bring the dough together with a couple of turns. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using your hands, form the dough into a ball with a nice taut top, tucking the edges of the ball underneath so it looks smooth on top. Flatten the ball a little bit with your hand and then pop the soda bread onto the heated baking sheet.

Being careful of the hot baking sheet, dip your wooden spoon into the bag of flour, and place it horizontally on the bread, pushing all the way down to the baking sheet to form the first half of the traditional cross which you soda bread. Change the direction of the spoon so it is at right angles to the other line and repeat this process to create a big cross.

Bake the bread in the oven for 30–40 minutes, or until the bread is evenly golden and crusty. To check that the bread is properly cooked, tap the base – it should sound hollow. The dough inside the cross should also be cooked and no longer wet. If the bread is not quite ready then place it back into the oven for another 5 minutes or so. Once the bread is cooked, remove it from the oven and brush it lightly with honey while the bread is still warm.

Leave the soda bread to cool a little before serving. This type of bread does not keep for too long and so it is best eaten on the day it is cooked.